Under African Skies performed by West End Stars featuring students from Stagecoach Performing Arts
Track Title: Under African Skies Genre: Charity, Pop, African Launch Date: 4th December 2022 ISRC Code: GX8Q82200002
Truro, Cornwall (PRUnderground) December 7th, 2022
The History of Under African Skies
It was 30 years ago I first saw the iconic painting of “The Wise Old Elephant” by David Shepherd, this painting inspired me to come up with the melody line for the verse and chorus of Under African Skies. I knew I had to record this so I went along to Jo Partridge’s Airfield Recording Studio in St Merryn and sang it to him a cappella, I was so nervous my knees were shaking. Jo (who played the Heat Ray on War of the Worlds has produced and played guitar with Kiki Dee, Elton John, Phil Collins etc) no wonder I was nervous, he liked the song and over the next six months he wrote the music, we wrote the rest of the lyrics completing it together in 1992.
I always knew it was a charity single, for elephants but I didn’t know anybody at all, Under African Skies was the first song I had ever written. In 2002 Stagecoach Performing Arts Truro was asked to perform the song on stage in Trafalgar Square for the “Queens Golden Jubilee” Jo and I re-recorded Under African Skies with Al Hodge playing the synth pad and the bass, Jo added the live guitars. It was amazing performing to the huge crowd in Trafalgar Square and then the Stagecoach Truro students and I danced down the Mall next to the Queen in the river of gold. That was an amazing day.
While I was working on the 2017 UK tour of Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat (Stagecoach Performing Arts Truro students were the Joseph Choir) I met Michael Colbourne who was playing Joseph in the Hall for Cornwall because Joe McElderry had a sore throat. Michael and I became friends, four years ago I woke up one morning and heard a voice telling me that it was time for Under African Skies, Michael was on tour in Torquay at the time, after his performance as Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie, we went for a meal on the seafront, we picked a random restaurant and sat down, on the wall behind Michael was the painting of “The Wise Old Elephant” by David Shepherd. Was this a coincidence?
Michael and I discussed my idea, to have children from the Stagecoach Performing Arts Global and his friends the West End Stars singing together on this charity single for Save the Elephants. As we would like to raise enough money to put a GPS tracker on a lot of the elephant’s in Africa. Michael agreed, I then went to the Stagecoach Conference at Stratford Upon Avon and spoke to Sarah Kelly to ask permission to approach the other Stagecoach principals, Sarah agreed and introduced me to a man from Agency Brazil. I wasn’t sure where to record in London and the number 3 kept running around in my head. There was only one recording studio that I’d really heard of so I scraped the money together and booked Abbey Road, The studios address is 3 Abbey Road.
I knew the song was always for the elephants but the lyrics seemed to be jumbled and 5 days before the recording at 4 am I woke up and started writing, an hour later, the lyrics were the right lyrics touch people’s hearts and to raise enough money. Initially, I wasn’t sure on the charity so I just asked my empty kitchen and the MIKE project page popped up on my phone, as Michael was involved it just felt right as though I was being directed from beyond. Michael organised the West End Stars from most major shows playing in October 2018 to come along to record on October the 15th. At the same time the Stagecoach Performing Arts Schools across the UK were recording the backing vocals and emailing the wav files, Jo and I sifted through every vocal recording and added them to the children’s harmony tracks. Stagecoach Performing Arts Truro recorded their vocals at Jo’s Airfield Studio in July 2019 and Tam Johnstone (Jo’s nephew) recorded the live drums. There are over 1000 Stagecoach students’ voices on our recording.
Then the Lockdowns hit us and everything ground to a halt for over 2 years.
In August 2022 I went back to Abbey Road where Michael and I finished off the West End vocals having enlisted a few more of his amazing friends.
I then thought about what to do next, and how would I get this recording out to the world. After some research online I found a mobile number and on a very stormy day 5th September during a thunderstorm I rang. A wonderful man called David answered the phone and one of the first things he said was “I love elephants”, I can’t believe what you are trying to do it’s amazing. Clearly, I got extremely lucky, it turned out that I’d phoned the mobile number of the CEO of the world-renowned company Radio Plugger’s Global. We chatted for about half an hour and came up with a plan to release the single. I have never released a single before a David was more than happy to talk me through it.
I then contacted the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and asked if there was any possibility that we could use the painting of the “Wise Old Elephant” as the download and streaming cover for Under African Skies as this painting has been such an inspiration popping up in various locations. (Kay (David Shepherd Foundation) is currently trying to obtain the copyright permission)
On the 21st of September, I went to see Saba Douglas-Hamilton’s UK tour, the tour just popped up on my phone and she was only an hour’s drive from me, I booked tickets straight away. Her tour was called “In the Footsteps of Elephants” Saba is the daughter of the founder of Save the Elephants and she was in the UK from Nairobi for one month. It was here that I met Liz Skipper the Head Fundraiser at Save the Elephants. Saba’s talk was so moving and I knew there was no turning back, the Elephant’s need our help.
Every penny from the downloads and streams of Under African Skies will go straight to Save the Elephant’s, it will be used to put a tracker on as many elephant’s in Africa, moving the elephants away from the poachers to the safer game reserves. Money will be used to combat habitat loss and educate everyone about the importance of Elephants.
As it got closer to the release date, I was worrying about how on earth this would happen as I had just heard that David was already putting things in place and I was starting to feel a bit alone and overwhelmed. At that moment Bridget Key (my Stagecoach Franchise Manager called me and she directed me to Georgia) I contacted all of the principals who are sending photographs for the YouTube video. Kaylie Tatlow (my cousin) is working on this with me.
On the 15th of October 2022 4 years to the day that the recording was started it was mixed and finished, I only know this as a photo popped up on my timeline. Jo and I mixed Under African Skies with John Cornfield.
Under African skies will be released globally on all streaming platforms and a Save the Elephants link, on the 4th of December, World Wildlife Conservation Day.
Under African Skies is written and produced by Eily Tatlow and Jo Partridge, and performed by West End Stars featuring students from Stagecoach Performing Arts.
We are donating 100% of the streams and downloads to Save the Elephants.
The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation kindly provided the use of the painting “The Ivory is Theirs”.davidshepherd.org
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